“I Was Told Epstein ‘Belonged to Intelligence’ And to Leave It Alone.”

UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 22: Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is interviewed during the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort in Oxon Hill, Md., on February 22, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

In my earlier post I mentioned the reporting of Vicky Ward who did a lengthy piece on Epstein for Vanity Fair in 2003 and is now revisiting the story in The Daily Beast. (Ward had a detailed version of the underaged girls part of the story but Vanity Fair cut that from the 2003 story.) I wanted to flag your attention to a passage in her latest piece at The Daily Beast which reports that Acosta told Trump transition officials that he’d been told to back off the Epstein case at the time and that that was why he gave Epstein such a generous deal.

Here’s the passage …

Epstein’s name, I was told, had been raised by the Trump transition team when Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami who’d infamously cut Epstein a non-prosecution plea deal back in 2007, was being interviewed for the job of labor secretary. The plea deal put a hard stop to a separate federal investigation of alleged sex crimes with minors and trafficking.

“Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (The Labor Department had no comment when asked about this.)

It’s quite hard to know what to make of this claim. As one of my colleagues just pointed out to me the dialog itself seems more out of Hollywood that something you’d hear from a former US Attorney. On it’s face this sounds like second or third hand information, which puts some question over its reliability and may explain the movie script dialog. More importantly, Acosta is hardly a reliable fact witness in this case. He has every reason to deflect responsibility for the deal he made with Epstein. Finally, it seems highly improbable that Epstein “belonged to intelligence”.

What does seem plausible though is that Epstein had many very high profile defenders and that this somehow translated into message to back off or to make the situation go away with as little publicity and pressure on Epstein as possible. We can blame Acosta for the deal he cut. But that doesn’t explain why he did. Getting told to back off or hearing directly from a bunch of Epstein’s high roller friends sounds like a logical supposition.

It certainly seems worth asking under oath what Acosta told transition officials when he was angling for and getting his current cabinet position.

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